February 22, 2019

Prison Population Up 14%: Justice Minister Says Prison is Like Hospital “Numbers Change Every Day”

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More than 8,300 people were sent to prison last year over a variety of cases – which increased the prison population by 14,4 percent, according to figures released today.

In 2016-17, the report by the National Human Rights Commission read today in the sitting of the Parliament’s Committee on national unity, human rights and the fight against Genocide, shows there were 57,596 inmates in Rwanda’s jails.

But by end of last year, the population had gone up to 65,917.

In the words of some lawmakers, they said they had summoned the Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye, who is the line minister, to find out why so many people are going to jail.

A simple summation of the numbers indicates that for every single day of 2018, some 23 people went to jail.

According to Busingye, the rising number of inmates partly shows there is very good collaboration between the population and law enforcement entities which is leading to quick identification, prosecution and jailing of the bad guys.

However, he added, that prison population cannot be expected to be constant.

“Prisoner numbers change day by day. Prison is like a hospital. You can come in the morning when the place is overcrowded but by 2pm you find no one there so these numbers can change all the time,” he said to the amusement of the lawmakers and media in attendance.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye in parliamentary committee

The other issue the Minister was asked to address is the overcrowding in jails. The parliamentary report shows that for 2017, the capacity of the jails was 100.2 %. Then in 2018, it was 114.6%.

Busingye said expansion has been ongoing on various jails and new ones built. For example, in Rwamagana district there is a new facility with four blocks with a capacity to handle 6,500 prisoners compared to 5,000 prisoners previously.

In Huye district, three blocks were built with the capacity to handle 4500 prisoners. A fourth block is near-completion to hold 1,500 prisoner.

A three-block facility in Nyarugenge district can take in more than 9,000 prisoners. Another block being added will see 1,500 prisoners.

In Muhanda district, previously, it could only keep 2,500 inmates – but now reaches 4,000.

Gicumbi prison was expanded 1,500 to 3,000 prisoners.

The Ministet went on in detail for each of the prison facilities – giving figures on their expected capacity.

Ngoma prison was expanded from the capacity of handling 1500 to 2000, and it was also reserved for females only.

Rusizi prison was expanded from the capacity of handling 1000 to 3500 prisons. Musanze wil have 2000 from 1500. Bugesera prison will host 3,000 up from 700 inmates.

“All this was done after that report you have been asking me about, I assure you that these figures could have moved down significantly so far,” said Businge.

The session also addressed many other different issues.

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